Janet's thread

A weblog, mostly about knitting but other topics appear

Freya Stark, 1893-1993 July 12, 2016

Filed under: Artists,Authors,Autobiography,Freya Stark,Travel,Writers,Writing — Janet @ 7:51 pm

freya stark           freya stark 2      Freya-Stark

A fascinating writer and explorer

I have just finished reading a biography of her – Passionate Nomad, The Life of Freya Stark by Jane Fletcher Geniesse.  Including a new Epilogue.  A surprise twist on a true story.  A very good biography.  What a woman!  I came away from reading this book with more information than I really wanted …….full of admiration……but……not necessarily a woman I would have chosen as a friend.  And I don’t think she would have chosen me.

freya stark


Rose Wilder Lane May 20, 2016

RoseWilderLane01   Rose Wilder Lane – Laura Ingalls Wilder’s daughter was an experienced editor and novel writer.  Much has been written about her role in the writing and publishing of her mother’s books.  This mother/daughter combination has given so much pleasure to millions of readers with the Little House on the Prairie series on pioneer life in the America Mid-West.


Writing, Cats, And Dogs July 31, 2015

Filed under: Cats,Dogs,Writing — Janet @ 6:59 pm

morning 7 a m july 31 027  Ann Rule, true crime writer,  1931-2015

This photo was in the Seattle Times a few days ago.  I loved the image of Ann with her cat beside the typewriter and herdog by her side.  That’s what I aspire to.  I have the cat – getting a dog is on the to-do list.  I don’t want to be a famous writer of true crime nor do I fancy dying any time soon.  It’s the cat and the dog that I like as I sit at my computer and write about my ancestors.  No true crime there but you never know.  Genealogy is fun.


Prisoner on the Kwai March 28, 2015

Filed under: World War II,Writers,Writing — Janet @ 6:51 pm

Prisoner on the Kwai.


Scarves Galore January 24, 2015

IMG_5306   my latest scarves, let us call these the brown. green, and white sequence, scarves 13, 14, 15

the prior sequence could be labelled the Seahawk Sequence in blue, green and white   IMG_5345      scarves 10, 11, 12     Both sequences were knit lengthwise on size 4 needles.


Just for review – Scarves 1 -9   IMG_5346   These scarves are knit crosswise


Meanwhile our cat Katerina continues to pursue her mischievous ways.     She is especially fond of pens and pencils.   And she is developing a taste for birds.                                                                                                                                                                                                         IMG_5288            IMG_5336            IMG_5340  sad

When I knit I can also read.  Today I finished reading a very good book.    IMG_5328  A Star for Mrs. Blake, by April Smith.  This portrayed a little known aspect of World War I.  This is sort of a footnote to history and reflects careful research.  It is written with great sympathy and understanding.  Gentle is a term I would apply to it.  The author handles her characters delicately and yet honestly.  5 stars.


I can knit and watch television also.  I’m getting ready for the Super Bowl on February 1st.  This T-shirt arrived in the mail today.  IMG_5326     GO SEAHAWKS     Seattle’s great football team.  (American football that is – not to be confused with football in Europe and elsewhere in the world)


Silk Roads March 18, 2011

Filed under: Archaeology,Books,Family,History,Southeast Asia,Travel,Writing — Janet @ 7:10 pm

  Silk Roads, The Asian Adventures of Clara & Andre Malraux by Axel Madsen

This proved to be a most interesting book.  I can’t remember exactly where I got it – I suspect Fremont Market or Ophelia’s Book Store in Fremont.  From its title I kind of thought it might be about the fabled Silk Road across Asia.  But no, it was quite different from what I expected.  It was a biography of Andre and Clara Malraux and what interesting lives they lead.  To quote from the dust jacket – “This is a story of romance, crime and political awakening, of the first rumblings of the upheaval that would last through the rest of the century……….” 

 What I found fascinating is that the lives of these 2 people were bound up in the turmoil of the past century, particularly in Southeast Asia – a part of the world I know little about.  But following on from this book I am eager to read more.  I have read a lot about the British experience of Empire in the Sub-Continent and Africa.  But this book was about the French experience and that is relatively new and unknown to me.  I can only reminisce and think about the 2 1/2 oral exam for my Master’s Degree in Geography at Northwestern University in Evanston Illinois.  The exam was quite something.  A few weeks previous I had had a bad experience with an old fashioned electric wringer, which I was using in the basement of the house where I was living.  As a result, my hand was wrapped in thick bandages and I felt like the wounded warrior, which I was.  Anyhow, the exam ground on and I was waxing eloquent in answer to the various questions posed by this panel of 3 professors.  Waxing eloquent until I was asked a question about the climate in Java.  Hmm – I had only a vague idea – somehow out of my subconscious I decided that Java was somewhere near the equator on the far side of the world and I answered accordingly.  My geography specialties were urban geography and the geography of Europe.  The rest of the world didn’t enter into it.  But I had had a course in meteorology at Middlebury and I tried my best.  Well, I passed so whether my answers were right or wrong I guess they were good enough. 

 Now I will bone up a bit more on the history and geography of that part of the world – 3 grandchildren will be moving there shortly!   And their mum will be doing an intensive language course to get ready for her new posting.  Much to learn!  (One thing I’ve learned already is that it sounds much much too hot to think about knitting when we go to visit.)


Skirting Around The Problem December 31, 2010

Filed under: Books,Memoirs,Memories,Writing — Janet @ 2:02 am

Over the past 10+ years I have been working on the problem of writing some sort of memoir.  A while ago I felt I was  near to self-publishing my opus 8 countries, 62 years.  But then we started on this move from Dublin to Seattle and then the manuscript went back and forth between disks and computers etc.  And I got the idea of adding photographs.  And all the possible photographs were in the shipments.  So time is still ticking on.  I have been  blogging to keep the writing fires burning but really I must finally polish something off and move on.  Do the final editing.  Now that we are proceeding with the unpacking more photographs and more archival material is coming to light and I keep going off on tangents.  I feel under a lot of pressure – totally self-imposed- to finish this first volume off and then I can move freely off on these other tangents.  It’s like having a term paper or a thesis – do the final polishing and hand it in!  In my case it will be to the printer or to Original Writing back in Dublin.

In conjunction with my Irish language study, every day for the past year or so I have been writing the word/phrase for the day in a little notebook, the Murakami Diary 2009.  This is a lovely little diary which I bought because I liked the illustrations and the quotes from Murakami’s various books.  Well, here is what I found this morning – an excerpt from Murakami’s lecture “The Sheep Man and the End of the World”, delivered in English at Berkeley California USA on November 17 1992.

According to Murakami –

“The most important thing is confidence.  You have to believe you have the ability to tell the story, to strike the vein of water, to make the pieces of the puzzle fit together.  Without that confidence, you can’t go anywhere.  It’s like boxing.  Once you climb into the ring, you can’t back out.  You have to fight until the match is over.”

Then Murakami goes on to say that that is the way he writes his novels, and he loves to read novels that have been written this way.  To him, spontaneity is everything.  He believes in the power of the story.  The power of the story to arouse something in our spirits, in our minds – something that has been handed down to us from ancient times. 

Well, I’m not trying to write a novel – but I am trying to write the story of my life and to make sense of it and to make it interesting and informative for my children and grandchildren.  I am struggling in getting the introduction and in winding it up.  I think I have the bulk of it written but I just have to fit or make the border – up to this point in time – and my time frame keeps moving on relentlessly.  Happy New Year Everyone!

A first draft has been in hard copy for some years.  But it needs polishing and more careful editing – and then the confidence to release it for public view.  I have been a bit shy and lacking in confidence about this.   Somehow bits of what I had written were too private and I wanted to hone those out.  And I also wanted to eliminate some of the boring bits which only had meaning to me as a memoir and really wouldn’t be of any interest to anyone else ever.  And there were a few points I wanted to develop further.  And I wanted to somehow tie the whole thing together in a carefully crafted way.  But now I’ve just reached the point where I feel thwarted and it is becoming a nightmare where I am trying to get somewhere and keep getting interrupted or having to turn back.

I tend to read other people’s memoirs.  I am particularly impressed by several friends who have written about their lives and have self-published.  Here I want to cite Betty Nunan who wrote about her experiences in Bhutan.  Betty was in the creative writing class that I took for several terms.  Just as an aside – I took that class with the intention of having it help me in the writing of the memoir.  The class was good and I found it stimulating and I made a number of friends.  Unfortunately though the teacher wanted us all to be poets and she tended to disparage the idea of a memoir.  Happily though my classmates were encouraging and helped me along when I felt that my efforts were not necessarily appreciated by the teacher.  I might add though that I liked her a lot and feel that we are friends.

Three other local Dundrum/Dublin friends have also written nd self-published their work – Richard Cox’s research into his father’s early life – This Father I Never Knew.  A man who lives in Sandyford has published a memoir on his years in Uganda and Kenya.  And a bookselling friend has published a book about his time in Uganda when Idi Amin came to power.

  Murakami Diary 2009

  Betty Nunan’s book – On the Edge of the Map

  My book – draft copy that needs editing and photos, etc.


Books for Elderly Aunts September 11, 2010

Filed under: Authors,Books,Writing — Janet @ 10:15 pm

Several posts ago, when I wrote about the author D. E. Stephenson, Mary Lou of Yarnerinas commented that it was the type of book she used to choose for an elderly aunt.  I thought, what a perfect way of describing the book I had read, Mrs. Tim and the Regiment.  That description could easily be applied to several other authors, such as Lillian Beckwith and Jane Duncan. Would Muriel Spark come under this category?      Stretching further back in time I would choose John Galsworthy and Anthony Trollope.                 .

But I can think of one elderly relative who passed away maybe 30 years ago – Edith Pargeter, aka Ellis Peters, was one of her favourite authors.  Now Ellis Peters’ books can get rather brutal, particularly her historical novels.  And while Brother Cadfael himself is most genteel, some of the scenes in the Cadfael series, are decidedly not.  In fact, one could say they were quite gory.   And Edith Pargeter’s historical novels I found too brutal altogether.

I write the above after finally finishing Stephen King’s Firestarter.  I much preferred his Dead Zone.  But that said, I think I will wait a while before reading any more Stephen King books and I will be very selective.  Now for a more genteel “elderly aunt” book.

  edith pargeter 1913-1995, (aka ellis peters),  courtesy of Shropshie Tourism

  Jane Duncan, aka Elizabeth Jane Cameron, 1910-1976,  image from the internet

           books by Lillian Beckwith, (Lillian Comber) 1916-2004


Another View of China June 6, 2010

Filed under: Ageing,Authors,Books,China,History,Hong Kong,Writing — Janet @ 12:04 pm

Just published this year is a new biography of Pearl Buck by Hilary Spurling.  Pearl lived in China for most of her younger years and she identified strongly with the Chinese people.  Of missionary background, she had conflicting loyalties all her life.  She was born in 1882 in West Virginia.  Her missionary parents returned to China when she was 3 months old.   Most of her years were spent in China until 1934 when she left China for good.  She is possibly remembered best for her Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Good Earth.  It topped the best seller lists in the early 1930’s.   However, she had a prodigious literary output and in 1938 she was the first woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

  Burying the Bones by Hilary Spurling

  you can see that the subtitle of the book is Pearl Buck in China.  Most of this biography is devoted to that time in her life.  Much of her writing is indeed autobiographical and derives from her years in China.  When she left in 1934 she was in her early 50’s and lived to the age of 80, writing prodigiously all that time.  The picture shown here is Pearl in 1938 when she won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

  Pearl in 1932 (from wikipedia)

  photo from wikipedia

Pearl died in 1980 and is buried in Vermont.  If she had lived longer, I wonder what she would have thought of the handover ceremony in Hong Kong in 1997.

  Robin Cook, Cheri Blair, Prince Charles, Chris Patton – Hong Kong, 1997   (photo from wikipedia)

In any event, I found Burying the Bones a fascinating biography and I plan to reread The Good Earth and be on the lookout for some of her other writing.


The Die Is Cast May 12, 2010

Filed under: Authors,Autobiography,Memoirs,Writing — Janet @ 7:06 pm

Here we go.  Today I had an appointment with a publisher to talk about my manuscript.  I have been wanting to publish this for quite a while – the working title is 8 countries, 62 years.  Well, the 62 years is now 73.  But I want to publish what I wrote 10 years ago.  Another publication could catch up with the intervening years.

So now I must get down to really doing the editing of my manuscripting and finding photos to go with it.  Alas, some of the photos I would use are in Seattle, but I think I can find enough here to be going on with.  It would be good to tidy this off before our final departure from Dublin.  After all, 42 of the 73 years have been based here.

As most friends know I have been thinking about this publication for a long time but now I have been inspired to go a step further by 2 friends who have recently published their memoirs.  I’ll put a plug in here for Richard Cox’s This Father I Never Knew and Nuala Breathnach’s Blaisíni

   I attended the launch of Nuala’s book last night.  A wonderful occasion in Dundrum Library.  Our Irish teacher opened the proceedings with a nice introduction and then Nuala read a selection of pieces from her book.  Congratulations to both Nuala – and Richard – for seeing their work through the publication process and into print available to a wider audience.

The publisher of these 2 books is Original Writing.  This is a self-publishing firm, mainly for Irish writers.  They have over 150 publications in their “store”.

  Carnegie library in Dundrum

The launch table, our Irish teacher Maire Fitzgerald on the left, Nuala in the center.

After the launch it was still bright and I had a wander up the hill to a very old church – St. Nahi’s.  But I’ll tell you more about that another time.

new sign at St. Nahi’s

 side view of St. Nahi’s